🌊 Chuck Commits Mortal Zyn

PLUS: Saving the Rhino from Extinction

We’re almost there, folks.

Although we’re not the biggest fans of legacy media, we can’t help but feel a bit sentimental over its recent losses. Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Time, and Pitchfork — all among the hallmark magazines of our youth — have been gutted in the last year. Pitchfork has shuttered entirely, and Sports Illustrated is on its last leg. Of course print dying is nothing new, but we’re still getting over the deaths of Blockbuster and troll dolls.

In today's edition:

🗞️ Key Stories: Saudi Arabia opens liquor store!

🏈 Happy Hour: Jim Harbaugh goes Hollywood

🦟 Cape Verde is Malaria-free

🔑 Key Story

The Problem Pouch

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) called for a crackdown on Zyn, dubbing the nicotine product a “pouch packed with problems”

  • Zyn is a brand of nicotine pouches that contains no tobacco and doesn’t require spitting. It is marketed as a healthier tobacco alternative, although officials warn its effects are unknown

  • At a press conference, Schumer called on regulators to investigate Zyn “for concerns relating to marketing [to children] and health effects”

  • Republicans accused Schumer of promoting a “nanny state”: “Come and take it,” one North Carolina representative wrote on X

🔑 Key Story

Hope for Rhinos

German researchers achieved the first-ever lab-assisted rhino pregnancy

  • There are two subspecies of the African white rhino, the northern and southern. Only two northern rhinos – both female – still exist, meaning the subspecies is functionally extinct. However, 30 northern white rhino embryos are currently frozen

  • On Wednesday, German researchers announced they had successfully performed IVF on a southern white rhino, raising hopes a northern rhino embryo could be transplanted into a surrogate southern white rhino, potentially reviving the subspecies

Scrub Your SSN From the Web

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🔑 Key Story

Saudi Arabia Opens Liquor Store

Saudi Arabia opened its first liquor store since 1952

  • Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s most conservative laws. Since 1952, the kingdom has banned the sale or consumption of alcohol

  • Saudi Arabia has since permitted foreign diplomats to bring alcohol into Saudi Arabia so long as it is consumed on embassy grounds. For years, though, officials have accused diplomats of selling liquor on the Saudi black market

  • Per multiple outlets, Saudi Arabia opened a liquor store in its capital’s diplomatic quarter. Several sources said the store is designed to close the loophole wherein diplomats illegally sell imported alcohol in Saudi Arabia

🔑 Key Story

NATO Buying Ammo

NATO placed a $1.2B order for artillery shells days after Ukraine complained of an ammunition shortage

  • Last week, Ukraine’s defense minister said Ukraine is experiencing a “shortage of ammunition” that has become “a very real and pressing problem”

  • On Tuesday, NATO’s chief called the war a “battle of ammunition” and said NATO will purchase $1.2B worth of artillery rounds on behalf of Belgium, Lithuania, and Spain – all of which strongly support Ukraine. Those countries will either use those to restock their own supplies or give the shells to Ukraine

⚓ Dive Deeper

⚓ Dive Deeper

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Daily Poll

Today's Poll:

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Yesterday’s Poll: Did you play Pokémon as a kid?

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🍿 Happy Hour

🎤 The Weekly Stewart: Starting February 12th, Jon Stewart will return to host “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central every Monday night and serve as executive producer for its upcoming season

🙋🏻‍♀️ World record… gone too far? A California woman set the Guinness World Record for the “longest arm hair (female)” with a strand measuring 7.24 inches

🏈 Jim goes Hollywood: Jim Harbaugh is leaving the national champion Michigan Wolverines to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers

Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan in one GIF.

🦜 Parrot rehab: A British zoo plans to rehabilitate eight profanity-using parrots by integrating them with 92 non-swearing ones. There is a fear they could end up with 100 swearing ones

🇯🇵 Miss Ukraine Japan: Ukrainian-born model Carolina Shiino – crowned Miss Japan on Monday – became the first naturalized Japanese citizen to win the pageant, sparking debates about Japanese identity

💨 Smell you later: A Phoenix-to-Austin American Airlines flight reportedly experienced a brief delay after a “disgruntled passenger” loudly passed gas

🌯 Deep Dive

Roca Wrap

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Cape Verde to be malaria-free.

Cape Verde (also Cabo Verde) is an island nation of ~600,000 people off the west coast of Africa. Uninhabited until the Portuguese discovered it in the 15th century, the island chain became a major hub for the African slave trade and other forms of trade. It became a Portuguese “overseas province” in 1951 and gained independence 24 years later.

The WHO estimates malaria – a parasite spread by mosquitoes – infected 250M people in 2021, ~94% of whom were in Africa, and killed 608,000, mostly children. To date, the WHO has certified 43 countries as malaria-free, meaning they have broken the domestic chain of transmission for three years.

Mauritius became the first African country to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases when it did so in 1973, followed by Algeria in 2019. Since 2007, Cape Verde has attempted to follow suit, launching programs to comprehensively test for and treat the disease. Among other things, the country offered free anti-malarial services to foreigners visiting from mainland Africa.

Formerly found on all nine of Cape Verde’s inhabited islands, malaria was more recently detected on only one. Earlier this month, though, the WHO confirmed that the island chain had gone three straight years with no local transmission of the disease. In acknowledgment of that, the WHO officially declared Cape Verde to be malaria-free.

“I salute the government and people of Cabo Verde for their unwavering commitment and resilience in their journey to eliminating malaria,” the WHO’s director said in a statement.

Cape Verde’s success “gives us hope that with existing tools, as well as new ones including vaccines, we can dare to dream of a malaria-free world.”

Let us know what you think by replying to this email!

🌎 On-the-Ground

Roca Reports

Last weekend, Ethiopia celebrated its equivalent of Mardi Gras.

Ethiopia is 44% Orthodox Christian. Despite the religion not being a majority among its population, Orthodox Christianity is core to the country’s heritage and culture. Nowhere is that more evident than at Timkat festival, which took place last weekend and which Roca’s editor (Max Frost) visited last year.

Timkat is the Ethiopian equivalent of Epiphany, which celebrates the baptism of Jesus. For Orthodox Ethiopians, it is the can’t-miss festival of the year.

I was supposed to leave the day before it, but Russi, an Ethiopian friend in the US, pleaded with me: Please stay for Timkat. You can’t miss Timkat. So I stayed and celebrated Timkat with Russi’s three nephews and their friends in the center of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

On the first day of the two-day festival, we parked the car and joined a crowd of people walking to a church.

Once we reached that church, we exited and joined another crowd, which had come from a different church. As we walked, another crowd joined us, this one from a different church. As the crowds merged, the mass of people got bigger and bigger. Soon, thousands of people had come together, with men banging drums while women whooped and made a high-pitched “la-la-la-la” sound.

Eventually, the procession reached the main avenue, where it merged into a larger group of thousands more people. By then, there were tens of thousands of people.

“This is just the start,” Alex told me.

As we walked up the avenue, thousands more people flowed into the crowd. There were easily hundreds of thousands of people chanting, singing, dancing, banging drums, blowing horns.

I’d never seen anything like it.

That scene played out all across Ethiopia: In each Christian Orthodox community, the area’s churches come together and process to fields or plazas, where they host a festival and religious ceremony. We just happened to be at the biggest such procession in Addis Ababa.

The crowd eventually poured onto a massive field, where religious officials were speaking and a festival was underway. Everyone eventually dispersed and convened there again the following morning. The next morning, the festival began in reverse.

We started at the field where the prior day had ended: Priests there were shooting hoses and pouring buckets of holy water over the crowd. People jumped up and down and screamed to get the priests to target them. Most people – including the guys I was with – fast for the holiday, and aren’t allowed to eat until they are doused in holy water.

Once blessed, everyone went for food and beer.

We entered a hotel that was overflowing with people, with waitresses running around balancing dozens of draft beers on their trays. Everyone was cheersing, ordering more drinks. We sat in a guest room with six turbaned priests – also cheersing and drinking – next to us.

As they ordered more beer and shoved meat into my mouth (an Ethiopian sign of respect) I realized the festival was transforming from a sober, religious celebration to a carnival. We kept eating and drinking until we ended up at another packed restaurant in a residential neighborhood with people eating meat and drinking beer at every table.

One of the guys I was with, Danny, knew the owners and got us a table. He later told me he had lived in the neighborhood his whole life, until the government demolished his home to build a car park and relocated him to the outskirts. In Addis, your neighborhood is your closest community outside your family. The parking lot therefore shattered Danny’s social circle, but they come back to celebrate on Timkat.

For the rest of the night, Danny took care of the food and drinks, which started with a draft beer and a plate of raw meat, sliced by an in-house butcher. After that came another beer, accompanied by grilled goat. Then another beer, alongside beef over hot coals. All the beer was a local draft; all the food was eaten by hand, using injera, the Ethiopian sponge bread.

The beers were a bit smaller than a pint, but not by much. They cost 40 cents apiece and didn’t stop coming.

Ethiopians who were celebrating that festival last week undoubtedly began their weeks a bit hungover.

Let us know what you think at [email protected]!

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The Clubhouse

Question of the Day: Today’s question is related to yesterday’s Roca Votes Wrap.

What is the most important issue for the 2024 election?

Which of these issues do you think is the most important for this election? Economy, immigration, health care, climate change, or foreign policy?

What’s an issue that isn’t receiving enough attention in the media and among candidates?

Randy: “I ranked the need for an immigration/border solution as #1. There is no vetting, no plan, and no infrastructure in this regard. The economy is #2. Inflation continues, and many cannot afford basic living items, like food, housing, and travel to/from work. Term limits are #3. We need people who will decisively act and stop merely talking about critical issues. Foreign policy is in trouble without a leader who backs up his rhetoric. That would be my #4 priority. Our freedom is at risk if we capitulate to those who hate us and foment violence. Crime is #5, but these are all important. Criminals need to be held accountable with more strict enforcement. Seeing illegals with criminal records admitted to the US and seeing repeat offenders destroy innocent families is inexcusable. District attorneys and judges are shameful and should be censured, fined, and removed from the bench for giving criminals early and even immediate release for their crimes.”

Dan: “I think foreign policy is the must important issue. Here’s why: Economy: we’re doing alright!  Bull market and economy is grooving. immigration: not a big issue yet. We need low wage workers and no US terrorism yet caused by terrorists.  US needs immigrants tax revenue though but that’s another story. health care: it’s bad and getting worse, but we mainly have insurance and it’s not killing is enough to make this a big issue. Yes a few people have horrendous impacts but it’s mainly NIMBY. climate change: it’s bad but it’s so much of slow issue that it’ll take years before we get concerned and by then it may be too late. We’re too concerned about what’s in front of us than what’s many years out. I went scuba dining last week in the Caribbean and am consistency appalled by the dead/ugly coral. But we’re hoping science develops some new coral that grows well in warmer waters; evolution will take too long to fix this one.  foreign policy: this is the biggest one.  We hear more and more about Ukraine, Israel, Yemen deaths. Eventually some group will commit another terrorist mass killing and get everyone up in arms. Invest in military weapons companies, since we’ll need them in a few years. Trump is a big bully that can wreak havoc on foreign leaders to get them to step up to the plate. Itwill be an interest next 4 years.”

Dimitri: “Resolving the US debt and our deeply negative budget is my most important topic for this year's election.”

🧠 Editor’s Note

Final Thoughts

Here’s an odd bit of January 25 history: The word “robot” was first used on January 24, 1921, in the play “R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots).” Now, it makes perfect sense as to why the word is relatively new, but at the same time it feels weird. You mean to say Teddy Roosevelt never heard the word?

That’s enough nostalgia for one day. Have a great Thursday and see you tomorrow for some 20 Questions.

—Max and Max